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The Theme Is … Leftovers!

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Tasty Kitchen Blog: The Theme is Leftovers!

This week, we’ll do a bit of a twist on a spring theme. For many people, spring is not only the time for flowers and vegetables and fruits to start coming alive again, but it’s also the time to dust winter off our shoulders and tackle that annual routine of spring cleaning. The sweaters and heavy jackets are put away, closets and attics and basements and bookshelves are cleared, and the warmer weather seems to empower us with newfound energy to do it all.

For the life of me, I never could figure out how we can end up getting rid of so much stuff every year. Where did all these things come from? Didn’t we just throw out a bunch of things last spring? Sometimes I wonder if my house is a bottomless pit. Or a “stuff” magnet. Do you ever get that same feeling?

Today, however, we’ll talk about a different kind of spring cleaning. The yummy kind. Because we’ve all got things in our fruit basket, bread box, refrigerator, pantry, and cupboard that somehow get left behind. The remnants or neglected ones that, if we don’t do something about them soon, might very well start walking away on their own. And if you’re like me and cringe at the thought of wasted food, then get ready for all the incredible ideas that Tasty Kitchen members have shared that may just make you start planning to have leftovers!

Let’s begin with the photo above. If you’ve got any apples past their prime (maybe they’ve got some brown spots, are quirkily irregular in shape, or you made some pie and have a bunch of cores and peels), jemnenke shares a wonderful Apple Rosemary Jelly that doesn’t even use pectin. If you have old bread, one of the classic ways to use it is to make croutons, and jenniferperillo’s Parmesan Skillet Croutons will make a delicious addition to your salad. Got some leftover risotto sitting in the refrigerator? Make some Arancini from Angela [YourEverydayMama] and turn dinner into the next day’s snack item! Or if you’re looking for ideas to use up some canned beans and spaghetti sauce sitting in your cupboard, Super Veggie Vegan Enchiladas from Jessica can take care of that.

Let’s get back to cleaning out that refrigerator for a moment. We all saw the wonderful idea that Jaden shared using leftover Easter ham in last week’s post, and in the photo below, you’ll see cookincanuck’s take on leftover ham, with her Tarragon Crepes with Ham, Asparagus and Mascarpone Cheese. Or if it’s some extra chicken that’s languishing in there, Annalise has an awesome Slow Cooker Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup that also makes use of any leftover parmesan cheese rinds! Or throw together an Easy Veggie Ramen from foodwoolf, using ham, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, or whatever kind of meat you might have on hand. If it’s bags of frozen vegetables that you want to put to good use, try lizzygoesdutch’s Vegetarian Pot Pie below and make a hearty, healthy meal out of it. And since turkey is often the star of many big gatherings, try some Turkey and Stuffing Scallop from julip1882 the next time you find yourself looking for things to do with leftover turkey and stuffing. (Oh, and it works with chicken, too.)

Tasty Kitchen Blog: The Theme is Leftovers!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably already done the “make a pizza using leftovers as the toppings” trick a few times. But what if it’s just regular non-leftover pizza night at your house, and you end up with extra slices and toppings the next day? If you’ve also got a lone pie crust hoping to be used soon, then throw together the Leftover Pizza Quiche from jodiecoston seen in the photo below (top left). If you’ve got old rice, try steamykitchen’s delicious Tomato and Egg Fried Rice. Or try bell’alimento’s Thursday Night Rice, which uses both leftover risotto and macaroni.

If it’s your vegetable bin that you’d like to empty, fire up a wok or skillet and make Ree’s Easy Monday Night Stir Fry, or some clever little Mini Vegetable Frittatas from whatsgabycooking. Got some herbs that need a home? The Homity Pie from thingswemake seen below can take them in. Or if you still have some wickedly spicy habaneros from the time you had to buy a whole pack just to use one or two, then make this Sweet and Spicy Habanero Jam from Jessica, which would really kick up your sandwiches!

Tasty Kitchen Blog: The Theme is Leftovers! (Vegetables)

Now let’s head to the cupboard where you keep your baking supplies. If you’ve got a little bit of this and a little bit of that in terms of grains, oats, nuts, dried fruit, baking chips and other add-ins, you can try mixing them all up to make a batch of mybakingaddiction’s Homemade Granola like you see on the left in the photo below. Or make ivoryhut’s Leftover Cookies and throw in all those little handfuls of leftover crunchies. If granola is actually what you have left over, then bake up some Granola Blueberry Muffiins from A Cozy Kitchen or throw them into Hyacinth’s Everything Cookies posted by Ree. Believe me, those things are amazing.

Tasty Kitchen Blog: The Theme is Leftovers! (Sweet Treats)

And those are just some of the great ideas I found for leftovers here at Tasty Kitchen! They all look so good that no one can tell they’re actually rescue missions in disguise. So the next time you … what? You want just a few more? Maybe something with chocolate?

Okay. Just for you, let’s do a few more. Maybe some Chocolate Chip Jam Bars from Tracy (sugarcrafter) that will help you use up that bottle of jam or jelly, or a Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding from Bindi in case you don’t want to make croutons with your leftover bread. Or if it’s your fruit basket that needs attention, Cindy has some Petite Fruit Tarts that can empty it out in one afternoon.

Tasty Kitchen Blog: The Theme is Leftovers! (Dessert)

There you go! I hope these showed you some new ways to make kitchen spring cleaning more interesting and delicious. Plus, it helps us all save money and expand our kitchen repertoire at the same time. It’s a win-win!

Now we want to hear from you. What’s your take on leftovers? Do you try your best to cook just enough to never ever have leftovers? Or do you look forward to creating new dishes with what you have on hand? Do you have any favorite leftover tricks? Do share!



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Meg on 4.23.2010

I am a left over queen… making the left overs look like a totally different meal.We love using fajitas in omlets. I always make my roast cuban pork enough for three meals. 1/3 cuban, then 1/3 Turn it into BBQ later in the week and then the last 1/3 I mix it with Green(Verde) Enchilada sauce/ sour cream and peppers and wrap in torillas spray with pam and bake until golden brown for mexi night… I always keep two large zip lock bags in the freezer one for the heals of the bread loafs for bread crumbs(meatloaf or meatballs) and the other steak and roast scraps for soups and stews. We love using left over chicken for pot pies, and veggies for shepherds pie, soups and stews. hese are a few of our fav left over ideas

WilliamB on 4.21.2010

My go-tos for leftovers are:
– omlets for cooked veg or cooked meat, if the add-ins are cold then the omlet doesn’t get weepy;
– stirfry for raw veg & raw bits of meat;
– egg donburi (a soupy Japanese omlet served over rice) for raw or cooked veg or meat;
– soup for just about anything;
– smoothies for fruit and yogurt;
– croquettes for meat or veg, make a thick white sauce (or add an egg and breadcrumbs to canned cream of whatever soup), chop the meat/veg fine and stir into sauce, roll in crumbs if you want, pan fry. You can top with leftover sauce of almost any kind – tomato, creamy, glazes.

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sambugjoebear on 4.19.2010

This is a great post! Just this past week or so I’ve been creating new dishes at home with whatever was in my pantry (most of them turned out really good!).

I love the ideas about freezing bananas- I never would have thought of that! I always feel cranky when I have to pitch over-ripe bananas and I don’t have time to make bread. This is great! :)

jilrubia on 4.18.2010

On the banana front….

I always buy a huge bunch to let them go. Then peel and freeze mainly for smoothies. But, I also add one, thawed to pancake mix along with some cinnamon to help me feel like the kids are getting a nutrition boost (and it tastes AWESOME). Plus, who would ever eat a plain banana? Around here, they make our throats itch. Probably a genetic malfunction.

Old donuts, rolls, etc. get frozen to find new life in bread pudding. (oh banana bread is great for that also!)

I’m so hungry…guess what’s for breakfast tomorrow?

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doodlechix on 4.18.2010

Leftover bananas – Never let one go to waste!

I just recently discovered that if you peel ripe bananas and freeze them, they give the perfect consistency to smoothies! (Great item to buy when they have a sale table and freeze em!)

Very ripe (partly brown) bananas can be frozen right in their skins for future banana bread. Just thaw out and use as you normally would!

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jenmenke on 4.17.2010

I’m thrilled to have my apple jelly mentioned! Thank you! It is one of my favorites, because as I always say, it’s like making something precious out of garbage! I’m thrilled to find others doing likewise. :)

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quilts on 4.16.2010

With a 17 year old son, I rarely have leftovers. When we do they usually find their way into our lunch sacks during the wee. We save lots of $$ by doing that and my lunches are always the topic of the lunchroom I must say! Great conversation starter. Who doesn’t like to talk about food?

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ALilBitofEverything on 4.16.2010

I generally cook for 6 or 8 people depending on the day, but I don’t know how to cook in small quantities so we pretty much always have left overs :-) Leftovers are a necessity b/c my fiance is a coal miner, so he can’t run 0ut and pick up lunch. Plus, it saves $$$. I write what it is and the date prepared on top of the container. After 1 week it goes out to the dogs, hogs, or chickens :-) These are interesting ideas, though, I might have to try some of them!

Patricia on 4.16.2010

Thanks for the ideas! I love making something good and different with leftovers!

Amy Frazee on 4.16.2010

At our house, leftovers are a necessity. For now it’s just me and my husband, but I cook enough to feed a family of five. Lunches are always covered and when I have to work late, there is something for my husband in the fridge. That keeps the fast food buying to a minimum.

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manda2177, i am baker, i am mommy on 4.16.2010

*slightly* off topic… but I just want to nominate someone for the member spotlight! (I apologize if she has already been there…)

Check out this amazing recipe!! TOO much talent in one cute girl!


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freckles2stars on 4.16.2010

Loving the ideas here. Thanks everyone.
We use our leftovers in so many ways. I freeze them and use them later with some sauces added to liven it up. Love making a big pot of soup and frittatas are so easy to do.
Most the time I will reinvent them into something that is fabulous and am doomed to never be able to repeat it. Never the same leftover combination’s hanging out.

Jonathan Bloom on 4.15.2010

Is it too late to ask if you’ll be my valentine? I love this post and the message behind it: let’s avoid waste and create something yummy in the process?

My admittedly low-brow addition to the impressive collection of ideas here is making excess hamburger or hot dog buns into breadcrumbs.

Try as I may, I always end up with a few extra buns. But a few seconds in the mini-cuisinart and what was once destined to harden in your cupboard is now quite useful. I’ve been using the crumbs to fill out meatballs, which are another great leftover destination.

Kay Carrasco on 4.15.2010

I’m another that is cooking for only two, but I don’t see leftovers as something I’m stuck with–it’s more like “Oh great, there’s lunch!” So I intentionally cook in quantities that yield an extra serving or two. The only drawback is that some things are far better reheated on the stove but all I have here at the office is a microwave.

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MS Hospitality on 4.15.2010

I’m the leftover queen in this house… I eat it for breakfast.
I do like to have leftover tapas for lunch as well… a bite of this, a spoonfull of that…. then…OOPS…no leftovers!

Carolina Girl on 4.15.2010

I like to use leftover meats to make quesadillas–add some seasonings and chipoltle peppers! Fast and easy! And soups and casseroles are always great for leftovers! When I make boston butts or roasts, I usually try to totally repurpose into a new recipe!

dianna on 4.15.2010

Ahhh, the test of a talented cook – repurposing leftovers! Thanks for the great post Erika. Great ideas everyone. I have nothing to add as i am for the most part just a ‘re-heater’ of leftovers but this does make me want to get creative!

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seowsy on 4.15.2010

I basically use whatever suitable leftovers i have in the fridge and put it as toppings on thin pizza crusts! It’s awesome provided you put in the right amount of flavourings through herbs,salt and pepper PLUS love. Pizzas must be baked with love.

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myshoe on 4.14.2010

i love making casseroles with leftover roasts, or chilequiles. my chichen and cornbread casserole – on tastykitchen!- is one of our favorites.

i’ve found that my boyfriend will eat anything i bake cornbread or biscuits on top of!

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Ree | The Pioneer Woman on 4.14.2010

This is a seriously awesome post, Erika! I happen to love leftovers…I’m happy if a dish stretches over several days.

The photos/recipes you chose have me drooooling!

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mrsw on 4.14.2010

If I am trying a new recipe I will cook just enough… Ya never know how the crowd will react. If it is a recipe that has had prior approval then I cook for left overs. We have to have enough left for myself and husband to have at least one lunch each. If it is a kid favorite then I need a lunch for 1, 2, or 3 of them too! Even with that Sunday night is leftover night. We have a big lunch after church so dinner is what we can scrape out of the fridge. That way I don’t have to put too much effort into it and we have a clean fridge to start the week with.

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sweetebakes on 4.14.2010

I’m normally not a big leftovers person, but this post really makes me rethink that! My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy for not liking em, but I just tell him that’s why I keep him around :)

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twograyfoxes on 4.14.2010

My absolute favorite leftover of all time is to stuff some lovely poblano peppers (seeded and roasted until nearly done) with leftover jambalaya and some cheese. Drape with bacon and bake until the bacon is cooked and everything is hot and bubbly.

I am not sure if I look forward to Fat Tuesday for the jambalaya, or if it’s for the Wednesday night left overs!

Jessica @ How Sweet It Is on 4.14.2010

We LOVE leftovers! I love making omelets and mish mashes with them. My hubby just eats them straight!

Melissa at The Highlandview Pantry on 4.14.2010

I use leftover mashed potatoes by mixing with milk, an egg, and cheddar cheese and baking until lightly browned on top.

Melissa at The Highlandview Pantry on 4.14.2010

My favorite leftover fix up is mashed potatoes. I add some milk, an egg and cheddar cheese and bake them until brown and bubbly. Everyone likes its better than the mashed potatoes.

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shellsonvancouverisland on 4.14.2010

I cook for one so not having left overs is always a challenge. Fortunately I work long shifts so I either take them for lunch the next day or happily eat left overs at the end of a very long day.

I try to cook so that what I have left over can be something completely different for lunch. I often will saute two chicken breasts and one will get used for that meal and one becomes a left over for salads, quick stirfrys etc.

Jeanette on 4.14.2010

No tricks up my sleeve. Just enjoy having leftovers for those times the schedules are hectic and all we have to do is reheat :)

Liza (Jersey Cook) on 4.14.2010

Ditto with everyone here. There’s two of us here but I usually make enough for four so we have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Love this post, though. It’s much more exciting to turn leftovers into a whole new dish rather than eat the same thing two days in a row!

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Nancy on 4.14.2010

Oh, so often leftovers are better than the first day!! I love using leftovers in casseroles, soups, stews, wraps, etc. I always cook enough for 2 meals!!

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Chelsea on 4.14.2010

Because it’s just the two of us, I try to cook just enough. But if it something that we love that will reheat well, I will make extra just because! ☺ I do like to send leftovers for hubby’s lunch though! He doesn’t mind too much either since it usually saves him from having to eat canned foods all week long…poor guy! Lol!

Fran on 4.14.2010

I cook for leftovers. My husband then takes them to work for lunch thus saving us $$$ I will also eat them for lunch if there are enough. I will eat almost anything leftover if it’s wrapped up in a tortilla. Every once in a while if we have a lot of things left, we will have them for dinner the next day (we happened to have done this last night). If we have quite a lot of something left I will freeze it for a later date.

CopperKettleConfections on 4.14.2010

I love taking the leftovers and giving them a face-lift into something new and more vibrant!

It keeps me on top of my game and my family eating happily!

Happy Spring!

Annie on 4.14.2010

Stirfry is the easiest way to use up leftovers, along with soup. Throw anything into a pot, add some stock and wait.

Erin Chase, The $5 Dinner Mom on 4.14.2010

Great post! Off on some food blog hopping!

Leftovers MUST be reused! They MUST! It’s the creative reuses that make me happy!

Happy Kitchen Spring Cleaning everyone!